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Hip-Hop Fridays: Industry and Street Notes (Jan. 11, 2002)...


People are talking about Suge Knight's appearance yesterday morning on the Imus In The Morning Program. The long-awaited interview was finally conducted over half a year after talk show host and some say sycophant, Don Imus, began angling to befriend and meet the Hip-Hop mogul. Imus' efforts were also rewarded earlier this year when he snared a rare phone interview with Suge Knight while the music executive was still behind bars. Part gossip and part industry economics 101, Imus and Suge compared notes on such diverse topics and individuals as P.Diddy, O.J. Simpson, September 11th, Tha' Row's future and how musicians get jerked in their recording contracts. Even former N.Y. Giant's great Phil Simms called into the show to jokingly advise that Imus and Suge should get married, the lovefeast between the two was so thick. Simms told Imus that he had never seen the talk-show host kiss up to someone as much Imus has done with Suge Knight. Although he was an hour late to the show, the head of what used to be called Death Row Records, was humorous and although a bit reserved, not shy enough to avoid dropping some heavy innuendo regarding such figures as Dr. Dre, P. Diddy, and Jennifer Lopez. He did tell Imus that Kurrupt is coming back to Death Row Records (he even said that Kurrupt was present at the radio station where the interview was being conducted) and he mentioned that a meeting had been scheduled to take place yesterday in order to resolve an alleged disagreement/dispute with Jermaine Dupri over who owns the rights to Lil Bow Wow. Knight stated that he discovered the young star, gave him his artist name, and even supported his family. A particularly interesting exchange between the Imus and Knight centered around white rappers, racism and the n-word, in which Suge went into his thoughts regarding identity, explaining, "I would rather say that I am a nigga' or that I am Black then simply say like these politicians and everybody says, 'African-American' and the only thing that they want to do is snatch your pockets off and use the money for themselves. In Africa, first of all, I am glad that I am an American. And that has nothing to do with Africa. But in Africa, Africans don't even call themselves 'Africans'. Take somebody in Kenya. They call themselves 'Kenyan'. They don't call themselves 'African' or 'African-American'. So there is nothing wrong with being 'Black'." Interesting. Suge was at his best when describing how Blacks in the innercity feel about September 11th juxtaposed to the living conditions that remain for them to live through...

From New York through Philly and down into D.C. we have confirmed that the track that is killing it in the clubs these days is "Rock Da Mic" by Beanie Sigel and Freeway. It might as well be TRL over here right now - e-mails, phone calls, and word of mouth adds up to this track being the one to warm up clubs this winter. No regional bias on this one, Free and Beans have NYC jumping right now with 107.5 WBLS and Hot 97 nodding their heads with the cut moving into rotation..

When Beanie Sigel said, " I come from high-school and go straight to the league..." he was speaking figuratively, making an analogy between his meteoric rise, with little experience, into the professional level of the rap game. Well, what Beanie meant symbolically, Jae Hood fulfills literally. The high-school phenom, only 17 years old and with the backing of the LOX, particularly Sheek has "everybody" talking about his appearances and freestyles on mixtape after mixtape. And he has his feet firmly planted on the streets with "Call Me Hood" featuring Sheek on the chorus. At first impression it looked like Jae Hood was heading in the direction of being a one-dimensional artist, as far as subject matter went, but we were hearing that the young man had a variety of topics and a diverse subject matter on his debut release. We have heard a few cuts and can confirm that to be the case. Look out for "He Say, She Say", which may be the best young people's relationship cut, lyrically, that this genre has seen, from the male perspective, since Slick Rick's "Teenage Love"...

Jay-Z and R. Kelly are shooting for a summer release for their collaborative effort. Not a rumor, it is real. We have learned that as many as 15 songs have already been completed by the man Keith Murray named the "R&B messiah", and the man who refers to himself as the "god M.C.", and all that remains for the project to move forward are the major details of which label/distributor the album will be released through. Easier said than done. But the Jay-Z/R.Kelly tour that will come out of this promises to be a monster... Speaking of Jay-Z, a shout out goes to The Source Magazine for having the courage, in this era of H.O.V.A.-hate to recognize "Izzo" as the hip-hop rhyme of the year. We talked to a 20-year old acquaintance of ours who was dissing the Jigga Man, and even Nas - referring to both as only "rappers" while he lauded Talib Kweli, Black Thought, and Mos Def as "lyricists". We thought the categorization was ridiculous, off the top, and even more so after we asked him to define the difference. To make our point we played "Izzo" for the youngin', 2 lines at a time. Sadly, because our acquaintance had bought in so thoroughly to the propaganda that all Jay-Z rhymes about is women, jewels and money he had not realized how deep and "lyrical" the song was. He did not even understand what Jay-Z was referring to when he mentioned the Cold Crush Brothers in the song, nor did he catch how witty and insightful Jay-Z's depictions of inner-city life and the music business were. Went right over his head. But he was a good sport about the whole thing and at the end of our session, he said that he would re-consider his H.O.V.A.-hating. How many "conscious" artists we wonder, could have fit so much into an only 3-minute-plus song with a repeating chorus to boot? Jay-Z is done rhyming all of his three verses at the 2 minute and 59 second mark of the song. It really is a feat worthy of respect from anyone who knows anything about rhyming and recording songs. We love Common, Talib Kweli and Mos Def and don't blame them, but don't understand why so many of their fans feel that it is necessary to lift up their favorite artists at the expense of the more popular but equally (more or less) talented artists. Even Jay-Z's magnificent collaboration with The Roots is being questioned by some of the Philly group's fans that we have encountered. It is as if The Roots committed blasphemy by being seen on MTV backing up Jay. Interestingly none of the H.O.V.A. - haters who are so concerned with preserving the artform or who are pro-Black, Afro-centric and conscious seem to want to give Jay-Z or even my old group Wu-Tang Clan credit and recognition for expressing power and self-respect and self-love by demanding and getting more out of their recording deals than the so-called conscious artists who get credit for espousing revolutionary and freedom-fighter rhetoric but who are little more than slaves, in terms of their recording contracts. What Jay-Z, people like Suge Knight, and Wu have done in their contracts and deals is not a classic example of greed or "capitalism" as many hip-hop "purists" that don't understand economics claim. Though far from perfect, it is actually quite revolutionary and a basic form of self-respect that they are exhibiting. Doesn't hip-hop consciousness have an economic component? Respect to The Source for getting it right with the Hip-Hop quotable of the year...

It is only fitting after mentioning the Cold Crush that we should mention that The Sugar Hill Gang will be getting paid at least some of what they should have made from their earlier years of rhyming, but not from their record label. A federal jury awarded the group nearly $3 million from the Snapple Beverage Corporation and Turner Broadcasting System for unauthorized use of the group's work in an advertising campaign. The damages, made public from United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, mean the group will receive $165,000 in compensatory damages and $2.8 million in punitive damages...

The strange relationship between rappers and bank robberies continues. Lil Buddy has been charged with bank robbery. Reminded us immediately of the bizarre convictions of Philly hip-hop legends Steady B. and Cool C. in the mid 1990's on bank robbery and murder charges. The Philly artists received life and death sentences, respectively...Also in the police report section, Larceny of Junior M.A.F.I.A. was sentenced to 1 year for gun charges just before the year ended...

Shockwaves are rippling out of the west coast over the demise of Valley Media - the leading music supplier/distributor for most of the independent record stores in the region. The loss of Valley makes the cost of business increase for Hip-Hop retailers and small chains rise dramatically. Valley's liquidation also causes an immediate decline in the ability to efficiently serve customers who now have to obtain music product from sources further away, in other parts of the country, meaning that product will take as much as 2 to 3 days to reach their destinations. If a retailer was cash-strapped and using a just-in-time inventory system, the loss of Valley is devastating even a threat to the survival of the business...


Cedric Muhammad and John Chambers

Friday, January 11, 2002

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